What A Good Score! – #31: The Killing Fields by Mike Oldfield
An occasional series here at "Off The Tracks". Listening back to classic movie scores and discussing their significance; the memories they spark.
I remember loving the film – though that feels like the wrong way to say it. Brutal, but beautiful movie, I thought at the time. It was also one of the first Journalism Films I had seen, and I’m a lifelong sucker for those. But I was probably listening out for the music as I watched it.
Because I was already a Mike Oldfield fan.
Part of the legend of Oldfield was knowing that Tubular Bells was used in/for The Exorcist. So he had form as a soundtrack person. Although, it’s The Killing Fields (1984) where he first creates an actual score. And it’s really the only time he’s made a full soundtrack.
Me and a high school buddy were obsessed with Mike Oldfield. We were obsessed with all of the same music actually. Led Zeppelin. Sly + The Family Stone. Santana. Buddy Miles. The Doors. We were old souls, or something. It felt, for a time, like we were the only two who knew. So that was our bond. We shared tapes and egged each other on. If I talked about Mike Oldfield’s Amarok one day (which I loved more than Tubular Bells if I’m honest). Then he returned the favour by mentioning Five Miles Out or The Killing Fields soundtrack; by supplying tapes recorded from the record collection at his house. And I did the same
Anyway, that’s how I found out about The Killing Fields. And it’s another of those soundtrack scores, where I feel like it was one of the ones that really lit the fuse.
I’ve owned it on CD and more recently on vinyl. And I listen to it quite regularly. I also know it in excerpts too. Its beautiful and beguiling closing track, Etude, felt like a cornerstone of The Complete Mike Oldfield compilation. Maybe I hunted the score out after first hearing that? That would make sense…
Also, Evacuation feels like if John Carpenter was called in to add layers of darkness to Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. (I know right? Sign me up!) Well, I was already well signed up.
Funnily enough, I really don’t listen to Oldfield at all these days, and haven’t for ages. Apart from Ommadawn. That, and this Killing Fields score are the ones I can forever return to. But Amarok feels silly and gimmicky, and the boredom of all the various Tubular Bells spinoffs and remixes and repeats has rendered the original a dud in my mind. A classic that I can no longer listen to.
But The Killing Fields is bigger than Mike Oldfield. It’s a movie score. And it stands as both powerful music on its own. And reminder of a powerful, important film. Also the combination of music and film getting to me at the right time. Making a huge impression. Equally so in fact.
That’s what I love about digging back in to old movie scores. They come packed with all sorts of memories; of the music, of the discovery, of the movie. And of old friendships.
R.I.P. Cameron. You and I used to share a lot of music. And movies. And books. And I probably never said the right thankyous at the time. But I like to think that just by being there, by listening, by sharing, that’s exactly what I was doing. Or trying to do, in that awkward teenage way.
What A Good Score is a new series here at Off The Tracks – looking at movie soundtracks, the good, the band and the astounding…
Sounds Good! is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.